Dana Fox of the Kennebunk Transfer Station shows the drop bin for recycling used by Kennebunkport residents. The transfer station is at 36 Sea Road in Kennebunk. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

KENNEBUNKPORT — As of Sept. 1, Kennebunkport has suspended its curbside recycling program, meaning residents need to look for another way to properly dispose of those materials.

For a fee, Kennebunkport residents can take recyclables to the transfer station on 36 Sea Road in Kennebunk, said Town Manager Laurie Smith, which would be a minimum charge of $5 for an 18-gallon bin or $10 for a 40-gallon container.

The decision to suspend the program was made by the budget board and board of selectmen as a four-year contract with Oceanside Waste Management, who had previously been picking up Kennebunkport’s recyclables, ended in August, said public works director Mike Claus.

Smith said that due to market changes, decreased revenue for recycled goods meant a quadruple in price for the town.

“We used to pay about $55,000 a year, and that included curbside pickup. We weren’t paying processing fees and it included having two dumpsters in town for cardboard,” Smith said. “In the new world, it costs us about $192,000.”

“It’s a substantial amount of money we would have had to budget for last season that we didn’t have a lot of support for,” Claus said.


A letter was sent to residents before the suspension with information on facilities and stores that would take and reuse certain goods, Smith said.

Some residents, however, are not sure if these alternatives will work out for everyone. Chris Farr, who lives in Kennebunkport, said that he is greatly bothered by the decision.

“I’m very afraid that residents will simply discard their recycling in the trash for free, rather than take it to Sea Road and pay for it to be recycled,” he said. “A much better solution would have been to provide a drop-off location in Kennebunkport for residents to drop off metal, glass and plastics. Even small and much poorer locations in Maine have these provisions.”

Farr added he believes this type of decision is unacceptable in 2019.

“As a wealthy community and a beautiful place to live, Kennebunkport should be setting an example to the rest of the state,” he said. “Shame on our elected officials for their lack of concern and foresight.”

Despite the suspension, the town is trying to address these environmental concerns, Smith said. Claus, for example, is working on a new composting program for Kennebunkport.


Smith said that even though residents may not have felt like they were paying for recycling when they were paying their tax bills each year, they really were, and now that cost is going directly to the center on Sea Road.

“When you think of the recycling triangle, there’s three pieces to that: reduce, reuse and recycle,” she said. “But I think people got stuck on the recycling piece. We’ve heard those concerns about the environment and about us pulling our fair share in terms of helping the environment. I think what Mike and the boards are challenged with is how we can best accomplish that.”

As the market for recycled goods changed, Kennebunkport could not be certain about where the materials were ending up or if they were actually being reused at all, Smith said.

“It wasn’t just a matter of the cost,” she said. “It was a matter of what’s happening to the materials that we’re spending additional funds on. The markets have changed dramatically. For example, glass doesn’t have a market anymore. Some of the plastics don’t have a market. Cardboards, availability for sale has diminished to zero.

“With mixed paper, people are having to pay to dispose of it,” she said. “And that’s being sent to Southeast Asia. Whether that’s being recycled there or not it’s difficult to determine when those materials are going so far away. And so to [the boards] it didn’t make sense to quadruple our cost while at the same time not knowing whether we were having the impact we wanted to.”

When or if Kennebunkport will return to curbside pickup is still unknown, Smith said.


“We have a solid waste committee that is working on better understanding the market and what avenues we have,” she said. “It will be something that is discussed as part of the next budget process, which will start next March, but it’s difficult for us to project at this time.”

A change in the system has impacted that contamination element, too, Smith said.

“In the old days, you recycled everything separately and then we went to zero-sort,” she said. “I think that meant people started putting more materials in whether they were recyclables or not. And that contamination was 25 percent. That was part of the processing fee. So we’re seeing people who are being successful are going back to the way things used to be about sorting and being conscientious about what goes into recycling.”

Claus said that education on contamination is definitely a priority for the town.

“One of the issues we really have to talk to our residents about is good recyclables,” he said. “What they put out in the bin, if we ever do go back to recycling, has to be recyclable material.”

— Staff Writer Catherine Bart can be reached at cbart@mainelymediallc.com or 780-9029.

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